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  1. Exam Details
  2. Trouble Spots, Preparation Hints, and Recommended Study Resources
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Trouble Spots

Many examinees find the following topics to be more difficult portions of the exams:

  • CPU architecture, motherboard components, and RAM: Topics such as CPU speeds and types of processors can be difficult to remember accurately for some examinees. The same can be said for motherboards components and RAM types. Focus on the specifics listed in the 220-901 objectives for hardware. Be sure to take notes on these topics and quiz yourself often to help memorize them.
  • Mobile Devices: The 220-900 series exams now focus very heavily on mobile devices. Because there are many various types of mobile devices and so many details to remember, this can be a troublesome area for some when testing. Understand the various laptop, tablet, smartphone, and other mobile device components and be sure you are very familiar with using and troubleshooting Android, iOS, and Windows mobile operating systems. Examinees should practice on all platforms and know how to configure and secure them.
  • Command-line usage: The exam can test you on a dozen or so different commands. Seeing as how many of these commands have different switches (options), it would behoove the examinee to write down each command, its description, and an example, in an attempt to memorize each of them.
  • Mac OS and Linux: The 220-902 exam now includes Mac OS (OS X) and Linux under the 2.0 Other Operating Systems and Technologies domain. This makes up 12% of the exam. To pass the exam you will need to understand the common features and functionality of both of these operating systems as listed in the objectives. Practice with the listed Mac OS tools and features and install a version of Linux and practice with the basic Linux commands.
  • Security: The 220-900 series exams have an increased the amount of security coverage. In fact, the 220-902 3.0 Security domain encompasses 22% of the exam! Examinees should spend time researching how to secure their individual computer, wireless router, and mobile devices. Being able to identify and mitigate security threats and vulnerabilities is an extremely desirable skill. Know the security related domains and objectives very well!
  • Troubleshooting: The exams will question an examinee on how to troubleshoot Windows—especially the second exam. Due to the sheer volume of troubleshooting scenarios, it is recommended that the examinee install operating systems on a separate computer (or within a virtual machine), and practice breaking and fixing. The exam will use performance based questions to ensure you know where to go and how to troubleshoot specific issues. There are several types of printers, and many things that can go wrong with each. An examinee should study the various print technologies, components, and associated printer processes such as the steps included in the imaging process. Apply the CompTIA 6-step troubleshooting theory listed in 220-902 objectives, and really spend a lot of time memorizing the various reasons a printer could fail (especially laser printers) and how to fix those issues. 28% of the 220-901 exam is based on hardware and network troubleshooting. 24% of the 220-902 exam is based on software troubleshooting. Practice your troubleshooting skills with all kinds of hardware, printers, mobile devices, Windows, OS X, and Linux.

Preparation Hints

A person who wishes to take the A+ exams should have at least the equivalent knowledge of 12 months hands-on experience in the lab or in the field. CompTIA and the exam questions expect candidates to be able to:

  • Assemble components based on customer requirements
  • Install, configure and maintain devices, PCs and software for end users
  • Understand the basics of networking and security/forensics
  • Properly and safely diagnose, resolve and document common hardware and software issues
  • Apply troubleshooting skills
  • Provide appropriate customer support
  • Understand the basics of virtualization, desktop imaging, and deployment

Every examinee should first look at the CompTIA objectives for the A+ exams, which are listed later in this article. (They can also be downloaded from CompTIA's website). In a nutshell, the A+ objectives are divided into two exams. Each exam is then broken up into sections known as domains. They include:

220-901

DomainPercentage of Examination
1.0 Hardware34%
2.0 Networking21%
3.0 Mobile Devices17%
4.0 Hardware & Network Troubleshooting28%
Total100%

220-902

DomainPercentage of Examination
1.0 Windows Operating Systems29%
2.0 Other Operating Systems & Technologies12%
3.0 Security22%
4.0 Software Troubleshooting24%
5.0 Operational Procedures13%
Total100%

When preparing for the A+ exam, it is wise to use more than one study resource. Using just one study guide might provide you with a narrow view of the concepts. By using various forms of study materials, including books, videos, and practice questions, you will become a much more well-rounded examinee, and increase your chances of passing the exam greatly.

Recommended Study Resources

Where to Go from Here

Generally, the CompTIA A+ certified technician will move on to the CompTIA Network+ exam. These are part of what many technicians call "the CompTIA triad" which includes the A+, Network+, and Security+ certifications. For valuable resources and tools regarding these certifications, please feel free to visit the author's website at davidlprowse.com.

With the A+ certification under your belt, it is possible to start engaging in a job search. Many A+ certified techs become Technical Support Specialists, Field Service Technicians, IT Support Technicians, and IT Support Administrators with companies such as Microsoft, Dell, HP, Intel, Canon, the U.S. Department of Defense, and many others.

Good luck on your exams!

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